Evernote as a Task Manager

Image representing Evernote as depicted in Cru...

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Back on January 27, when I published my post reviewing Evernote, I didn’t realize then how much I would be using Evernote less than a month later. I now use Evernote so much now that I needed to go Pro, me one of the original cheapskates when it comes to “free” software/applications. It just shows how highly I think of this product. Evernote has become the first software that I generally open after I start my MBP whether it is in Apple or Windows mode.
When I started researching Evernote for that post, I learned a great deal about how other people are using it to do many different things. One of the biggest things that I wanted to know more about was how some people were using Evernote with Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, which I have always used in some modified form or another and as part of a task management system.
I have been searching for a task management system that works for me. I have tried paper solutions, software, web applications and none of those have been what I have been looking for. Hiveminder probably came the closest to what I wanted to do, but it was “only” a task manager and I finally realized that I was looking for something that did more than just that.
Evernote Todo
As I looked at how others were using Evernote to meet their task management and GTD needs, I began to put together my own system using Evernote as the hub. There have been a lot of changes, starts/stops and tweaks to get to the present system. I am still not completely done with tweaking what I am doing, but I believe that I have the major parts of my Evernote task management system in place.
Everything going to Evernote goes to the !nbox first, including clippings, @MyEN or email. Yes I can put new notes directly into a certain Notebook, but I have decided that this is more efficient for me have a single location to put everything and then decide later whether it is an action item, read it later or a resource that I want to save for later and then drop and drag it to the correct notebook. It does mean that you have to be pretty faithful about checking the !nbox regularly to make sure that you are on top of what is going on.
When something goes to my !nbox, and it is an action note, I give it a date due, rename appropriately, tag it (for additional search criteria) and move it to !TODO. This step gives me a powerful opportunity to really look at what the task is; what other tasks or projects it is related to, what kind of work needs to be done, if there are any appointments to make or what deadlines there are. I generally have iCal open in the background, so that I can see when I need/want to assign dates to a task, if it does not come with one and I can easily add it to my calendar when I need to.
I don’t have multiple action or pending files, I find that they confuse me too much and I loose track of what needs to get done after a while. The one !TODO file has all my actions whether it be do it now, follow-up, wait 30 days, call or all those other action files that many use to keep track of their work.
Ical and Evernote
This system requires me to be much more hands-on than other systems that I have used, but it also gives me control of where my data is, how it is displayed on my screen and I “know” what is there. I update this when I first get to school and at least once in the evening. When I receive action emails or written memos (I scan them into Evernote) they are added to Evernote’s !nbox.
At lunch or after school I assign the action date, update the title and add/de-identify other information as necessary. I have this open when I leave to go home to ensure that I do take home the stuff I will need that night to get done.
One of the best things about this system in my opinion at least, is what happens to the note after the action is done. Instead of having a huge !complete file, I put each note into the correct notebook, which allows me to find what I have done quickly and also puts a task or note into context of the overall project/case file, which I found was lacking in many task management systems I have used.
Something new that I started this week was the THINGS I WANT TO GET DONE TODAY note. There are things that we all do every day, but that don’t warrant a separate note to keep track of every time you want to do them i.e. clean the cat box. I haven’t figured this one out completely yet, but foresee using it as a quick checklist to keep track of those daily things like ensuring attendance was entered into Infinite Campus for each period that I have to or grade block 3’s work, etc. I have a feeling this will be almost like a daily repeating task checklist, but I am still working on this one.
Evernote allows me to use this task management system on my iPhone, when I am using Win7 on my Mac or any other computer that has Internet Access or that I have synced via Evernote. This flexibility has allowed me to try different things, yet still be able to know what is going on in my task management system and most importantly, not loose track of what needs to be done.
I guess the problem that I have had with task management or GTD systems is that they only do task management. Evernote can also be your project, research and file management system, that has keyword search, tags, notebooks and stacks to help you file and then find what you are looking for.
I just wish that it integrated better with Google Docs, which is my primary document creation tool. Evernote does an okay job and you can quickly share the link, but you have to go back to gDocs to read it. This way works, but it feels clunky and not as seamless as it could be.
Evernote is working as a great task management system for me. It does what I want and I can find things quickly and easily, whereas in the past that was not always the case with other products I have used. My task management system in Evernote wouldn’t work for some, but it is what I have been looking for, for a long time. I imagine that there are some tweaks and improvements coming down the road from Evernote that I will incorporate into my system that will make it even better in the future.
Now to figure out how to do a quick note, so I don’t forget those brilliant ideas that go away so fast.

12 thoughts on “Evernote as a Task Manager

  1. great use of Evernote for task management. I just wish the folks at Evernote would add a due date field. I feel as if that one field would open up Evernote and allow for a bunch of cool new task management features:- search/sort by due date- sync/export to calendaranyway, thanks for sharing

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  2. A link for outlook task on that TODO box (kind of like onenote)… it doesn't even have to back link like onenote does (tries to when it doesn't break)… just a link from outlook task to evernote todo box would be a GOD send.my 2 cents.

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  3. Terance, sorry I didn't catch this sooner. I agree completely, the due date fields are a needed field in Evernote. A – I am not familiar with that feature in OneNote (I haven't used much since 2008). Maybe a developer will make a plugin that does that? I don't use Outlook, but I can see how that would be a fantastic feature.Harold

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  4. Thanks for your post. Simplest usually is the best way. I've taken you note title syntax one step further in order to include a priority as a secondary sort. A title in my system looks like "yy/mm/dd – Priority – Description" where "Priority" is "A" or "B" or "C" (high, med, low). This could easily be expanded into even more sort levels if needed. Note also my date format leads with the year. This will pay off in spades near the end of the year and when I schedule to-dos into the next year.

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  5. As an English teacher (S1-S6 Grade 9-13 in the US I think) I use getITdone as the task manager (using the online/iPad and Android versions) because it also integrates evernote within the GUI. So I can tag tasks, schedule tasks put them into projects or smartgroups ie all my S1 (Year 9) class stuff and consult the relevant attachments, additional info, resources, links to websites. I can even add documents and weblinks direct to the task which could be a note/task about a lesson for example. Everything in one place. Link (can be deleted if you wish – I'm not getting paid for this comment 😎 http://getitdoneapp.com/

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  6. Nice tool, but it doesn't fit me. All the friends of mine use it and happy about Evernote, bit as for me it can't solve serious tasks and run specific projects. It's not bad, but not enough for my management strategy. In my projects I use comindware task management – it fits me perfectly.

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  7. I happened upon your post through Google search. I have tried almost every project management program known and none fit what I need to do. Thank you so much for writing this post. It answered my needs and led me step-by-step through your process. Mine is slightly different, but I love putting the due date in the front of the note title and managing in that manner.

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